Even before the pandemic’s harsh economic effects moved so many young adults back home to live with their parents, multi-generational living was on the rise. Trends are cyclical. Multiple generations living under the same roof was the norm decades ago, and now “Sandwich Living” is back.
“Sandwich Living?” This is the term for when adults have both their children and their parents living with them.
It is believed that currently one in five American households live with multiple generations at the same residence. For the first time since the Great Depression, the majority — 52% — of 18 – 29 year olds have moved back home. And whether due to mistrust of assisted living facilities and nursing homes, financial, or other reasons, older generations are living with their children and aging in place.
“Before 2000, the highest measured value [of multi-generational living] was in the 1940 census at the end of the Great Depression, when 48% of young adults lived with their parents,” according to the Pew Research Center. By 2016, a record 19% of the population had returned to live in multi-generational households. And now that number is rapidly on the rise.
There are economic, safety, and social benefits for the trend in multi-generational living.
The U.S. population is aging at the same time that youth are having a harder time attaining — and sustaining — financial independence. Cohabitation under one roof not only saves money and strengthens family, but it helps older relatives to age safely and curtails loneliness. One reason that families choose multi-generational living is that it translates to lower housing costs for all. The shared household duties and chores are an added bonus.
But while having multiple generations — and possibly multiple family units — residing at one residence usually uptrends when financial factors require, all indicators show that “Sandwich Living” may not have just been a creative way to make it through COVID. Multi-generational living is here to stay… at least for a while.
For everyone to live their best life in a multi-generational living situation requires looking at your home objectively.
Obviously, you’ll need a floor plan that allows everyone to live together — and apart. You’ll need to take into account privacy issues unique to multi-family, multi-generational living as well as consider incorporating universal design to accommodate safety and accessibility for younger, older, and physically challenged family members.
Suggestions for transforming your spaces to accommodate extended family members with functional gathering spaces, guest privacy accommodations, and aging-in-place include renovations to modify living spaces and entryways, stairways, and bathrooms with wider doors and hallways that allow wheelchair access; grab bars in areas such as the bathroom showers and tubs; faucets that have lever handles or sensors are also good additions. Adding a secondary entry door or patio door that allows others to enter directly into their portion of the home is very beneficial.
Maximizing the main level of your home is essential. Your home can be elderly-friendly by making sure the main floor has everything: one or two bedrooms, a full bathroom with grab handles, and a curbless shower, as well as easy access to the kitchen.
In terms of the kitchen, obviously having more people in the home means you’ll need a larger eat-in space. But you’ll likely need more cooking and prepping space, too. Adding that second sink or more counter space can make it easier for multiple cooks to work at the same time. As would a second dishwasher refrigerator.
But finding a place to put all of these extras may be difficult. So, if you have one, finish your basement. This is a cost effective way to increased usable living space. Make sure to include a full bathroom and to consider all building codes. For example, if there is a bedroom in your basement, you’ll need to make sure there is a basement exterior door or window with stairs for proper egress in emergencies.
Adding an addition can be costly. So think and plan ahead. Adding a guest suite or an in-law apartment can make a separate living area that allows families to live comfortably while maintaining privacy and independence. If this isn’t possible in your current home, consider creative solutions like adding a tiny home in your large yard, upgrading an existing structure, or converting a garage for extra space living.
But know that — since multi-generational living has been on the rise for a while — builders who have recognized the trend have designed floor plans with multiple master bedrooms or transformed basements into lower-level suites or family rooms. Others have attached a suite with amenities such as a small kitchenette, a private bedroom and bathroom, and a private entrance that also connects to the main home.
So many “Sandwich Living” possibilities are out there!